Spring break climbing trip (HP40, Stone Fort, the Red – March 2014)


At an overlook at sunset. (HP40)

The long-awaited (maybe) pictures and words from my spring break trip. Figured I should get these up before my next trip.

Before I get to the climbing bit, a precursor. We drove down in two cars – my little Neon and my friend’s mom’s SUV deal. We made pretty good time. By the time we were an hour away, it was about 8 or 9 at night. We decided to stop and get our groceries and gas. I pulled into the parking lot.

Except I didn’t. I somehow ran into and up onto a very, very tall curb. I thought I ripped of my transmission or something terrible. As it turned out, it was just a flat (still not great in the middle of Alabama at nine at night), but I had my spare, so we popped it on with a little difficulty, asked some very friendly locals about getting a tire, and I started to drive back down the road.

Less than a block later, the spare went flat. AGH.

By now, I was kicking myself mentally for being such a bad driver and ruining the night/trip and figured everyone would hate me, but pretty much everyone (just one exception) was ok – the “It’s a road trip, something has to go wrong” mentality prevailed. So while I called a tow and waited for it, they went and got food. The tow, of course, took about an hour and a half to find us, but that was ok because we were waiting for our friend to circle back and pick us up. Had he not decided to drive down (a) alone and (b) earlier than planned, we would have been stuck in Ft. Payne, AL for the night. So we finally made it – and still got there before the other car, somehow. (They had been loitering.)

Which brings us to…

HORSE PENS 40 – We were there for I think five days, got in lots of solid climbing and had just one day of rain (during which we drove half an hour to the nearest theatre to see the Lego Movie. Would recommend.) It was pretty warm – some days it got up to around 70 – and sunny. I got a few little runs in, too.


V3 on Panty Shields boulder, I believe. Ended in a megamantle.


Slabby slab slab.


Somewhere in the crag.


Somewhere else in the crag (just for those who haven’t been to get kind of an idea of the feel of the place).


Slopers ahoy


Dat deformation tho. (I went with a bunch of geology majors, so while I was going OOOH COOL ROCK THINGS they were too. I wasn’t the only one this time, yay!)

STONE FORT – We were here for just a day. Definitely need to go back, the rock is awesome and it’s a HUGE area. Highlight: exploring the little slot canyon and stemming up to the top – then back down.


Cool rock thing.


Square rock thing.

I didn’t do much climbing here, I felt more just like exploring around. Just played with some 2s and 3s. Watching our friend highball things was fun.

That deserves a mention, actually. So at the end of the day, a couple of us had scrambled up this rock thing to watch the sun begin to set and just hang out. We were up there talking when my friend looked over and saw our other friend about halfway up a 45 or 50 foot wall. Casual. About the same time, our friends on the ground noticed and went and got a triple mad and, almost comically, put it somewhere under him – as if that would make a difference were he to fall. But he didn’t, thankfully – topped out and sauntered back down the other side, no big deal. (There were some local kids hanging around too, and when we said our friend had just climbed that they didn’t believe us. Then he came around the side and joined us. One of the kids walked up and said, “That’s damn impressive, I’d like to shake your hand.” And he did.) So yes. I have good friends.

We drove straight from Stone Fort on to…

THE RED (RIVER GORGE)

Which was covered in snow and ice. It was a long drive, and at night, and through steep winding mountain roads. About half an hour from Miguel’s, we finally saw a gas station and stopped. Out of the night, a huge friendly fluffy dog came up and befriended us for a few minutes. Then it was gone. I was so tired I wondered if it had been real. (It was.)

But we made it, set up camp late late late and slept like rocks.


The approach. Yeah, it was colder here. Sad.


So very icy.


Did I mention the ice? All day, we heard dull crashes, cracks, and thuds in the distance (and not so distant) from huge icicles breaking off and falling. We were warned before heading out – “Watch out for icicles.” They weren’t joking.


Gear.


I tried leading for the first time. It was way more fun than normal top-roping.

And of course, we left the crag late and it was dark and cold by the time we headed for the cars. We had been in the shade for most of the day, and since there was ice and snow everywhere and I have bad circulation, my feet were not happy.

This is what happens to a foot in a cold wet shoe from 11 am to 10 pm. 

We’re almost back to Ann Arbor. I’ll be looking through my hundreds of pictures tomorrow so I should have a few up then.

I’m tired and I love camping but once you’re headed back, a hot shower and a queen bed for you and your cat sounds damn nice.
“How was your spring break?” “Oh, it was great. I climbed and also got trenchfoot.”

But we hiked back and made it fine. There were stars, stars in the sky. Then we got heavenly Miguel’s pizza and had a fine night. Headed out the next morning after stopping at an arch for a bit. Stopped outside Lexington, KY for our last road trip meal. And it was a doozy. Burger bar deal, but fancy – but not too expensive. So this is what I ate.


Portobello sandwich, sweet potato fries (all the sauces were made in-house), with…


Giant delicious milkshake. I tried tying the cherry stem with my tongue and got it on the second try. New skills!

Horse Pens 40, AL.

peace love and climbing,
bec

PS. Tent pic. (Contrail.)

The Grand Adventure (May 11 – June 2)

I’m back! After a month of various traveling – first down to Texas for my boyfriend’s graduation from Air Force basic training, then up to Colorado, then out for three weeks in Utah and California – I’m finally back in Colorado Springs, where I’ll be spending some if not all of the rest of the summer.

While my shin/stress fracture was sadly still acting up, the trip was still a great success. We came, we saw, we climbed. And we napped. There was a lot of High-Quality Hot Desert Afternoon Napping. And we ate probably more than our weight in corn and beans. I’d never been to Utah, Nevada, California, New Mexico, or Arizona before (plus the states I drove through to get to Texas), so it was pretty cool getting to really see this part of the country.

THE TRIP
We set off on a bright May morning, out around 8 a.m. We drove straight through to Moab, Utah, where we spent the first couple days. Massive rocks, a deep saturated red, surrounded us; the Colorado river flowed through the parks, wide and muddy. The dust here is infamous for getting on and staying on everything it comes in contact with. The area is best known for mountain biking; unfortunately, we didn’t have ours. We made up for it by hiking around lots of red rocks and arches and canyons under an equally saturated blue sky, usually cloudless. The heat wasn’t crazy, but I got burned on the very first day out, leading to a month of deep tan/molting skin barnacles cycling around and around. In this area we hit up Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, as well as Dead Horse Point State Park. Arches had arches and rocky trails; Canyonlands had awesome (in the literal sense of the word) canyons; and Dead Horse was a canyon so great we later decided to skip the Grand Canyon because the ones we’d already seen were so cool.


Moab at dusk


Dead Horse Point State Park

After a couple days in the Moab area, we continued our trek through Utah and camped in Red Canyon (State Park, I believe), about 15 miles outside of Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce had been our main goal in this area – it’s also where the 100-miler than I had wanted to do was, just two weeks after we were there – but Red Canyon ended up being far more fun. Red Canyon offered gorgeous pink, orange, and yellow rocks, most formed in towering hoodoo formations, as well as miles of trails that wound all through them and into the pink canyons deeper in the park. The trails here were a nice mix of that sweet natural ‘gravel’ that forms in these rocky sorts of areas and good soft dirt. The first run we did here (yes, I did run a couple times) was only about 3 miles, but I had inadvertently chosen an extremely steep, roller-coastery trail. Challenging, especially at about 9000 feet (coming from 6000, and for me, coming from the lofty 800 ft altitude of Michigan!), but extremely fun with absolutely stunning views of the pink canyons and hoodoos. There were a few points along that trail that had us running along totally exposed gravelly ridges, followed by steed gravelly downhills that sent us skating. Towards the end of the run, on one such ridge, the wind really started gusting and we noticed that dark clouds were gathering. That put a bit more spring in our step and we rocketed back down the hill. The fear of being struck by lightning does that to a runner. (Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me that time.)


Red Canyon!

Dana and Drew leading the way.


Me with rock. I think I was planning on living there.


Red Canyon camp.

After a few days in Red Canyon, we decided it was time to venture into Bryce and see what all the hullabuloo was about. There were massive hoodoo cliffs, although their colors weren’t as saturated as Red Canyon’s – drier and duller. Still a very pretty and interesting area… but we simultaneously decided that we’d rather play in Red, so we just drove through Bryce, stopping at every single overlook to ensure that we weren’t missing something. All in all it took about 45 minutes. ‘Underwhelming’ is a good word to use. Very cool, but Bryce failed to meet my expectations. (But still stop by if you’re in the area, for sure!)


Bryce Canyon National Park. Hoodoos galore!

Since Bryce was over, we looked at a map and thought: Hey, Escalante National Monument is right there. We’d heard it was cool, so we figured we’d drive over there for the day. However, it was farther than we thought: the visitor center was about an hour away, and from there it would be another 45 – 60 miles on washboard dirt roads to get to the slot canyons and cool things. There was no way that poor van could take 90 miles of washboard, so we ended up turning around and heading back to Red anyway. A good run at the end of all that saved the day, though. Plus we had a great campsite there.

After a couple days, we decided it was time to move on to our last Utah destination: Zion National Park. I’d heard only rave reviews of the place, so I was excited. It didn’t disappoint. Even the drive in was gorgeous. (I’ve come to realize that Utah is very, very gorgeous, as a general rule. Driving through there was fantastic, hardly a spot where I wasn’t going, “AHHHH BEAUTY IS ALL AROUND ME.”) The visitor center is basically halfway through the park, which meant that we spent a good while driving through the massive rounded, stratified canyon walls for which Zion is famous. Just a breathtaking place. We set up camp maybe 15, 20 miles outside the park, next to a river.
It’s kind of a shame, but we only really spent a day in Zion – we did the Angel’s Landing hike, which ascends a 1400+ foot rock formation by way of a chain attached to a cliff, basically. It was gusty when we were there, with some clouds potentially threatening rain. My friend Dana and I went about halfway and decided that that was a good spot to stop, while our other trip friend (and Dana’s brother) Drew sped ahead and went all the way. At the time I had no regrets for stopping where I did, and still don’t, but I know that if/when I go back, I’ll be all the way at the top.


Yup. Good place to stop. (Angel’s Landing)

After Zion, we were headed into California by way of Death Valley. All we wanted out of the trip was to Not Break Down In Death Valley.

You can see where this is going.

The van we took on the trip, our trusty steed, was a 2004 Honda Odyssey with a fair amount of miles on her. The timing belt had been replaced within the last month. The engine light had been on for several (but then, whose isn’t?). She’d been performing well so far, not a hitch. When we entered Death Valley and saw what it was – a black and grey and tan desperate wasteland, but not flat, oh no! There had to be massive winding mountains in there was well! – we gulped collectively and crossed our fingers. But wouldn’t you know it, we were halfway through the park (“park” is a generous word, how about “hellscape”?), grinding up a long hill, when we noticed the van wasn’t accelerating. It was stuck at about 20 mph. Not only that, but it also started vibrating massively and making terrible grumbling groaning noises. Great. We switched it off and nervously flipped through the manual. The VSA light had come on; none of us knew what that was. (Vehicle Stability Assist, we quickly learned.) But all the manual said was to take it to a dealer.

Well, we couldn’t really do that in the middle of Death Valley, now could we? There was no phone signal, of course, so after asking a passing car just how far it was to the nearest town (too far for comfort), we really had no choice but to press on, take it easy, and switch off the van whenever it got finnicky. Which was pretty frequently.

It was a stressful couple of hours, but we did eventually make it out of there. As soon as we got signal, they called their dad, who immediately said something along the lines of, “Oh yeah, that’s happened before. You just have to disconnect and reconnect the battery.” So along we went, driving through the deserty eastern edge of California, until we finally hit a town with an auto shop to diagnose the problem for real. (Big shout out to Casey’s Automotive in Lone Pine, CA, for not charging us because they couldn’t find the problem!) As I just mentioned, their electronic diagnosis didn’t show anything, so we drove on to Bishop, CA, where we finally set up camp by a river, inexplicably surrounded by middle-aged fishermen. Must have been a hot spot. We spent the rest of the afternoon basically lying on our crash pads in the sun, saying, “I’m glad we didn’t break down in Death Valley” about once every thirty seconds. It was an extremely stressful day to say the least.


Coyote, harbinger of death and despair in Death Valley.


It was stressful.

The next morning, we bought a wrench, disconnected and reconnected the battery, and everything was fine from that point on.

Bishop! Land of the Buttermilks and the Happys and so much more (although those are the only two we climbed at). Also home to Shaat’s Bakery and the best town park in existence. I’ll leave the descripting of Bishop to the pictures. My high point was sending a V4 – a not-quite-slabbish face with a kind of crimpy upwards traverse. I hopped on not seriously, realized I could do it, hopped off and actually looked at it, then send the thing. It was awesome and definitely the most satisfying moment of the trip.


Bishop camp.


They napped while I tried to locate various boulders. Did I mention that crag navigation is my least favorite thing in the world? I was designated Expedition Leader. I wandered around in the sun with a guidebook being frustrated until I decided to nap too. It all worked out in the end.


Drew doing something funky.


Me doing something funky.


Sunset.


Me on the lip of Hero Roof (Buttermilks).


The V4! Hager Face, Buttermilks.

[v4 video]

Bishop was awesome, but we did eventually have to leave. We found ourselves on something of a schedule, since we were meeting David in Monterey (my boyfriend, their brother) for his long weekend for Memorial Day. We were sad to leave Bishop, of course, since it’s a wonderful town with killer climbing, but we were also psyched for some non-desert landscape. We had originally planned to spend a couple days backpacking in Yosemite, but that got cut out because we didn’t know he had a long weekend. We ended up driving through Yosemite, stopping for some pictures and a few little walks, but ultimately we decided to speed on to the coast. Also no regrets with that decision because really, in an area as vast and awesome as Yosemite, one hike will not satisfy you. I definitely plan on returning for a couple weeks to really explore it. (I plan to return to pretty much everywhere we went on this trip. It was kind of an introductory, snapshot tour of Utah and California.)

Driving through California that evening was absolute bliss. We had the windows down, good old country going loud, singing along, the valleys were deep and green and lush and the countryside was that classic California gold. The sun was at just the right angle and the world was magical, basically. Today Is Mine by Jerry Reed fit that drive perfectly. We camped an hour outside of San Francisco and had our first shower of the trip. That was wonderful, to say the least. My hair was so gross that it stayed in its ponytail shape even after I removed the hairtie.

The next day we hit up Muir Woods for some redwoods, then headed into San Francisco. Cool city for sure. We wandered around, ended up getting Chinese food and going to City Lights, where Ginsberg et al were first published. That places just oozes hip. We only spent about five hours there, since we were heading down to camp in Big Sur and it was a bit of a drive.


These lit up at night.


Tiny apartments.

The drive down the coast was glorious. It was sunset. Enough said, I believe. California has the most delicious strawberries, btdubs. They are sweet and fresh and delicious. Also, avocados 10 FOR ONE DOLLAR. What.

Anyway, we spent the next four days in and around Monterey, including the Aquarium, back to San Francisco, and Big Sur. California was chillier than we were expecting.

Big Sur

After we departed, it was on to Joshua Tree, of which I have scant photographic evidence. Basically, it was hot, we climbed some and hiked once, napped in the afternoons, and were ready to be back home.

Highlight of J Tree: this desert tortoise crawled out from under the boulder I was sit-starting, quite surprising but very cool.

Also notable from J Tree: the coyotes in our camp (like, growling right outside our tents) the first night. No pictures of that.

Last camp of the Grand Adventure.

Sunrise, driving out of J Tree on our way home.

We made it back to CO Springs from J tree in one day – that’s over 1,000 miles, kids – and it was actually a pretty good drive. We got back at midnight exactly, chatted with their parents for a while, then crashed. Oh and I showered. Glorious shower!

So that’s it, Grand Adventure May 2013. It’s too bad my camera crapped out, this would have been a much longer and higher photo quality post if it hadn’t. Ah well, c’est la vie.

Sorry this took me so long to get up, I kept procrastinating by being in more mountains.

peace love and ‘venturin!
bec

A brief update before I vanish into the mountains and deserts of the west

Hello hello hello! I haven’t posted in ages for the simple reason that I haven’t done much in the way of Cool Things To Report, since I was just doing school and boring gym things because my stress fraction/reaction/whatever-the-hell-it-is is still lingering. The semester wrapped up as they usually do – quickly and in a flurry of activity to make up for all the inactivity of the rest of the semester – and I headed down to Texas directly after my last exam. I made good time, 7 hours the first evening and 14 the next day, then hung around San Antonio/Lackland AFB for my boyfriend’s graduation from AF basic training. So that was cool. But now I’m off for Actual Awesome Things.

1. Utah: Moab, Zion, Arches, Bryce, etc. Gonna climb ALL THE THINGS and run if my shin allows.
2. Quick stop in Nevada – Red Rocks just outside Las Vegas.
3. California! Bishop, Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Monterey, possibly LA or San Diego to visit some relatives.
4. Quick stop in AZ for the Grand Canyon.
5. Back to Colorado… where I’ll be living for the remainder of the summer. What. Up. Can you say Pikes Peak every weekend? I can. Once I get my hill quads back, that is. Stupid injury.

Oh, and since I haven’t been able to run, I’ve been climbing a lot more. Got a couple V3s recently, and last night I sent my first V4, which was sweet. It was a deliciously crimpy matchy traverse. I’ll get the video up here eventually.

So yup. I won’t post for probably another month, but when I do, it will be filled with awesomeness and cool pictures of wonderfully gorgeous places and happy things. Life is great!

peace love and anything outside that makes you happy!
becca

Trip report: Horse Pens 40

My boyfriend and I decided we wanted to do something cool as a last hurrah before me left, so we headed south to climb in Alabama at Horse Pens 40, a very well-known bouldering spot with excellent rock and slopers galore. It was about a 12-hour drive and we hit some traffic and didn’t arrive until about 10:30 at night, but it was worth it when I woke up bright and early the first morning and unzipped the tent to see the sun just coming up over the boulders. That first day was gorgeous – sunny and 60 degrees – but the next few days hit highs around 45 and were generally overcast and windy. Luckily, the nights and mornings weren’t too cold, and there was ample opportunity for some great campfires.

In terms of what we climbed, I – being the beginner and my first time on real rock – was stuck on V0s and V1s, which was fine. The rock was just so nice and it was so awesome to finally be climbing real live boulders, I didn’t mind not being able to get any V2s. It was just a fun learning experience, and the rock was just so great. Did I mention the rock? Sticky but not sharp. Glorious huecos. Sticky slopers. Very very smooth slopers. Some tall things to climb. Did my first slab problems. Met some cool people.

We climbed for five or six hours a day, nothing crazy, pretty lax actually. For the last two days, his elbows were really bothering him, so he ended up not climbing all that much. Which was lame, but also meant that we could spend all day working on me.  😛

That pretty much sums it up: great rock, ok weather,

IMG_1320

DSC_0237Classic HP40 slopers.DSC_0245 DSC_0253 DSC_0277 DSC_0291 DSC_0305 DSC_0311 DSC_0312 DSC_0330 IMG_1329 IMG_1333

Race Report: Bigfoot 50k


Camille and me finishing the Bigfoot 50k on Dec. 1. Salt Fork State Park, Cambridge, OH. Time of 6:15. Smiling as we cross the line – says something about the kind of day we had.

So happy! It was such a good run – surprisingly.

We drove out Friday night and stayed at the lodge right in the park, it was SO convenient and nice. The race started at 8 am, and it was in the high 30s and sunny when we started. The race was three 10.6-mile loops; this was the second time I’ve run that course, and I really like it. Yeah, there are a couple killer hills, but in between that is either nice rolling hills, pretty flat, or (my personal favorite) really awesome downhill.

The first half hour or so was pretty rough on my respiratory system; having been sick all week was not conducive to this level of activity. Surprisingly quickly, though, my sinuses cleared out (mainly onto my compression sleeves and the trail) and my actual run began. The rest of the first loop fairly flew by; I came in at just under two hours. My roommate Camille who was also running (her first ultra!) had been ahead of me, but I caught up with her for a mile or so after the aid station. The second loop went by really quickly as well, and I was feeling REALLY good, especially for not having run in basically a week, having been sick for a week, and not having really trained for this. It was a nice sunny day on the trails, and I got to talk to a lot of different people throughout the race. I maintained a steady pace for the first two loops, running exactly the same amount of time except for one and a half minutes spent at an aid station refilling my pack and retying my shoes. Which was good. The third loop was, of course, a bit tougher to maintain – I slowed down about 15 minutes, definitely just from walking up the last couple hilly sections. Those bastards. But that’s the great thing about the last loop of a race – every time you hit a nasty hill, just think, “HA! This is the last time I have to go up this ever again! Until next year!” My voice was basically shot by halfway through the third loop, I suspect from a combination of talking to people and breathing through my mouth almost entirely. But about three miles out from the finish, during my favorite wonderful gorgeous downhill section, I caught a glimpse of who else but my wonderful roommate on the trail ahead of me! I hoarsely said her name and she somehow heard me, turning around just as I fell for the second time (the first was earlier in the race – I landed on a rock directly on my right shin). But anyway, I caught up to her; she’d been having a pretty rough and painful last loop, and she was dead, but then apparently I gave her energy and we had a pretty solid last two miles or so and ran up the last hill to cross the finish line together at 6:15.  🙂

All in all, it was a pretty great run. It was my slowest 50k time but I don’t care at all: I was sick and undertrained and I had a damn good day of running that reminded me just how much I love running for hours and hours on end (as well as fancy downhill footwork done well and quickly – so satisfying!).

We had to drive four and a half hours back home, but we both semi-napped the whole way and ate a lot a lot of food, as was our right. Then I had to work the next day. Ugh. But…

YAY RUNNING! And I’m so proud of Camille for her first ultra! I’m so excited to run many many more with her  🙂

peace love and running,
bec

PS. Sorry I haven’t posted in ages – I started a second job and started climbing more regularly, and haven’t been training super religiously… so that combination hasn’t been super conducive to me posting. I’ll get back into it once this crazy semester ends… almost there… That being said, YAY CLIMBING! Climbing is great. I finally got shoes (La Sportiva Mythos, love them) and a chalk bag so I can boulder to my heart’s content. My future plans for racing include a 50 somewhere in March-ish, maybe another 50k here or there, and – dun dun DUN – Bryce Canyon 100 on May 31.